ACC: Marcus Jones

Duke spring wrap-up

May, 7, 2009
5/07/09
9:45
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Duke Blue Devils
2008 overall record: 4-8

2008 conference record: 1-7

Returning starters

Offense: 5, defense: 5, kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

QB Thaddeus Lewis, WR Johnny Williams, RB Jay Hollingsworth, RB Re'Quan Boyette, OG Kyle Hill, C Bryan Morgan, CB Leon Wright, LB Vincent Rey, DT Vince Oghobaase

Key losses

RB Clifford Harris, WR Eron Riley, OT Cameron Goldberg, LB Michael Tauiliili, FS Adrian Aye-Darko,

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Jay Hollingsworth* (399 yards)
Passing: Thaddeus Lewis* (2,171 yards)
Receiving: Eron Riley (693 yards)
Tackles: Michael Tauiliili (140)
Sacks: Greg Akinbiyi, Vince Oghobaase* (6)
Interceptions: Michael Tauiliili (4)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 Richmond
Sept. 12 at Army
Sept. 19 at Kansas
Sept. 26 North Carolina Central
Oct. 3 Virginia Tech
Oct. 10 at North Carolina State
Oct. 17 BYE
Oct. 24 Maryland
Oct. 31 at Virginia
Nov. 7 at North Carolina
Nov. 14 Georgia Tech
Nov. 21 at Miami (FL)
Nov. 28 Wake Forest

Next in line at quarterback: Redshirt freshman Sean Renfree not only solidified himself as the backup quarterback, but he also earned some playing time this fall. Renfree threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game, cementing his role after former backup Zack Asack moved to safety.

Boyette's back: Boyette, the Blue Devils' leading rusher in 2006 and 2007 who missed all of last season after surgery to his left knee, answered any questions about whether or not he'd return to his pre-injury form. Coach David Cutcliffe has been calling Boyette an "all-star" since he took off for a 55-yard touchdown in a scrimmage this spring.

Catching on: The Blue Devils appear to have an answer for the loss of Eron Riley, but it's going to be a senior-less group effort led by sophomores Johnny Williams and Donovan Varner, who had six catches for 116 yards in the spring game. Williams finished second on the team last year with 30 catches for 327 yards.

Fall questions

Tackling the holes at linebacker: Vincent Rey is still the only proven linebacker. Competition remains among Damian Thornton, Abraham Kromah, and Adam Banks. Can two of those three guys step up to fill the shoes of Tauiliili and Marcus Jones?

Inexperience up front: The offensive line struggled this spring to replace three starters. There was improvement, but nothing can compensate for game day experience. Kyle Hill moved from left guard to left tackle, so the unit has a whole new look. The one player back in his original position is center Bryan Morgan.

Take three? The biggest question for Duke can't be answered until the fall, and that's will the program take the next step? A realistic goal for a program that won one ACC game in 2008 is winning three league games in 2009. The last time Duke won three conference games was in 1999. Since winning the ACC title in 1989, Duke has won three or more league games twice -- a span of 19 seasons.

Duke recruiting needs

January, 15, 2009
1/15/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

As promised, here's the second round of recruiting needs for the ACC. Today we're focusing on the Coastal Division. Let's start with the Blue Devils:

If coach David Cutcliffe is going to turn the Blue Devils' program around, he's going to have to lure a stronger, faster athlete to Durham, and his staff is working hard to do that.

The odds of freshmen playing in 2009 are greatest in the secondary and at the linebacker position, where the recruiting needs were the most pressing, but Duke's entire starting lineup on defense was comprised of juniors and seniors. The graduation of two starting linebackers -- Marcus Jones and ACC leading tackler Michael Tauiliili -- made that position a priority, and five have committed.

Safety Adrian Aye-Darko and corners Jabari Marshall and Glenn Williams are all seniors, and the staff is expecting at least five commitments from defensive backs.

Duke also wanted to build depth up front on both lines, as the staff will have to replace three starters on the offensive line,and the defensive line will graduate two starters and return two seniors. So far, Duke has four linemen on each side of the ball committed.

The Blue Devils will also have to replace receivers Eron Riley and Raphael Chestnut, but there is some youth behind them. Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis will be a senior, but the staff is excited about Sean Renfree, and isn't too concerned about the depth at quarterback for this recruiting class.

ACC position rankings: linebackers

July, 18, 2008
7/18/08
6:09
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

1. Virginia: Senior captain Clint Sintim started all 37 games in his career and was third on the team with 77 tackles last season. His nine sacks last year were the most of any linebacker in the nation. Inside linebacker Jon Copper is UVA's active leader in tackles with 200, and Antonio Appleby is third on that list with 155.

2. Wake Forest: All three returning starters are back, including strongside linebacker Aaron Curry, a two-time defensive player of the week who had three interception returns for touchdowns and led the nation in interception return yards with 256. He also led the team with 13.5 tackles for a loss. Middle linebacker Stanley Arnoux also returns, along with weakside linebacker Chantz McClinic, who had 42 tackles.

 
 Ned Dishman/Getty Images
 Senior linebacker Brian Toal, who has 180 career tackles despite missing last season, is healthy again for Boston College.

3. Boston College: The Eagles lost two key starters, but senior Brian Toal's shoulder is healed and he has 180 career tackles despite missing last season with a medical redshirt. His primary competition at weakside linebacker will come from senior Robert Francois, who finished last season with 39 total tackles. Junior Mark Herzlich, who started all 14 games last year and finished second in total tackles with 97 should anchor this unit. Junior Mike McLaughlin started three games at middle linebacker last season when Jo-Lonn Dunbar was injured and is the heir apparent there.

4. Maryland: This could be one of the Terps' deeper positions, even with the loss of Erin Henderson to the NFL. Seniors Dave Philistin and Moise Fokou each started all 13 games last season, and Adrian Moten, who played all three positions as a freshman, tied for the team lead in sacks (5.5) and had 50 tackles even though he didn't start a game. Philistin ranked fourth in the ACC with 9.5 tackles per game.

5. Florida State: These guys have talent, it's just a matter of when it will all come together. Geno Hayes is gone, and so is Marcus Ball, who was expected to fill in for Hayes but was booted off the team. Still, the Seminoles' leading tackler is back. Underrated middle linebacker Derek Nicholson made 99 stops last year and was the only linebacker to start all 13 games. Strongside linebacker Dekoda Watson started every game but the bowl game because of the academic scandal and will miss the first three, leaving the job to sophomore Kendall Smith. The 'Noles are also excited about freshman Nigel Bradham.

6. Miami: The Hurricanes lost their leading tackler in Tavares Gooden, a third-round NFL draft pick by the Ravens, but are still better off than the way they ended last season -- with three healthy linebackers. Senior Glenn Cook is back after missing last season with a foot injury, and the freshmen -- Arthur Brown and Sean Spence -- didn't waste any time impressing the staff while Coin McCarthy was out this spring. Darryl Sharpton and Spencer Adkins are possible starters in the middle.

7. Virginia Tech: The Hokies will obviously miss Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi, but middle linebacker Brett Warren played well last year when Hall got hurt and earned the confidence of defensive coordinator Bud Foster. Purnell Sturdivant is No. 1 heading into the fall, but should be challenged by veteran Jonas Houseright and redshirt freshman Hunter Ovens. Redshirt junior Cam Martin started 13 of 14 games last season at weakside after being moved from free safety and finished fifth on the team with 78 tackles and was third in sacks with 4.5.

8. Duke: Senior Michael Tauiliili is the top active player in the league in terms of career tackles, and finished last season with 108. He also had four sacks and three interceptions. Vincent Rey led the Blue Devils with 111 tackles. The third slot will be between Marcus Jones and Adam Banks. There's not a lot of depth here, but there's talent.

9. Clemson: This is the least experienced unit on the Tigers' defense. Josh Miller is the only senior in the group and is competing for the starting middle linebacker job. Tommy Bowden was impressed with freshman Stanley Hunter this spring, but Brandon Maye had the top spring among the newcomers and is listed as first team in the middle entering the fall. Junior Kavell Connor is the top option at weakside linebacker and had a career high 15 tackles in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. He had 46 stops for the year, tops among linebackers on the spring depth chart. Sophomore Scotty Cooper also started the Chick-fil-A Bowl at strongside linebacker. He had 33 stops for the season in 183 plays on defense.

10. North Carolina: The Tar Heels have to replace leading tackler Durell Mapp, but return sophomore Bruce Carter and sophomore Quan Sturdivant. Carter played in all 12 games and started seven. He made 18 of his 25 tackles in the final five games. Sturdivant's experience is similar, having played in all 12 games, but started just five. He finished the season with 47 tackles, but also added an interception and a blocked punt. Senior Mark Paschal played in all 12 games and started four at middle linebacker, and Chase Rice was still recovering this spring from a torn tendon in his left ankle. He was the starter in 2007, but got hurt in the season opener and missed the rest of the season.

11. NC State: There's not a lot of experience, as the top candidates have combined for five starts and only four guys have played in a collegiate game. Nate Irving is the lead candidate at weakside linebacker, having started four games. Ray Michel started one game in the middle, and strongside should be wide open. Robbie Leonard, a converted walk-on defensive back, is the starter heading into summer camp. He played in eight games as a strong safety and has seen most of his action on special teams the past two seasons. Thomas Barnes got valuable experience as a backup middle linebacker last season, playing the last 10 games and scoring a touchdown on a fumble recovery in only his third career play from scrimmage.

12. Georgia Tech: Two of the three stars from last year -- Philip Wheeler and Gary Guyton -- are now on NFL rosters. Junior Shane Bowen started nine games last season, but sophomore Anthony Barnes has the most potential and started three. Two young rookies, sophomore Brad Jefferson and redshirt freshman Kyle Jackson, are good enough that Bowen may lose his starting job.

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